N149 Practical Salt Tectonics

Course Facts

Course Code:
4 days
3.2 Continuing Education Units
32 Professional Development Hours
Certificate Issued Upon Completion


This class discusses the origin and distribution of salt and provides intense instruction on the essential elements of salt mechanics, diapirism, structural styles of salt deformation and salt-sediment interaction. It comprises lectures and exercises involving interpretation of seismic data from basins around the world.

Duration and Training Method

A four-day course emphasising the geometry and evolution of salt structures and their impact on petroleum systems. It consists of lectures, discussion and exercises.

Participants will learn to:

  1. Summarise the nature of layered-evaporite basins and their tectonic settings.
  2. Evaluate how salt impacts deformation in different tectonic environments including rift basins, passive margins and convergent-margin fold-and-thrust belts.
  3. Describe how salt differs from other lithologies and what factors drive salt flow.
  4. Characterise the ways in which differential loading, extension and contraction trigger salt flow and diapir growth.
  5. Interpret typical salt and stratal geometries associated with salt evacuation and diapirism, welds, turtle structures and expulsion rollovers.
  6. Predict how drape folding around passive diapirs impacts stratal geometries, faulting, and reservoir distribution in diapir-flank traps.
  7. Evaluate the geometries that result from extension or shortening of pre-existing diapirs and minibasins.
  8. Interpret salt structures on seismic data, while avoiding the pitfalls associated with complex salt bodies.
  9. Assess the effect of salt on various aspects of the petroleum system, including reservoir presence and quality, hydrocarbon maturation and migration, and weld seal.

1. Introduction

2. Salt basins

  • Layered evaporite sequences
  • Tectonic settings

3. Exercise 1 – Salt and presalt, South Atlantic

4. Mechanics

5. Diapir Initiation

  • Progradational loading
  • Extension
  • Contraction and Strike-Slip
  • Turtle structures

6. Exercise 2 - Evacuation Geometries

7. Diapir Reactivation

  • Extension
  • Contraction
  • Strike-Slip
  • Summary

8. Exercise 3 - Diapir Styles

9. Passive Diapirs

  • Diapir margins
  • Halokinetic sequences and drape folding
  • Megaflaps
  • Diapir-flanking faults

10. Exercise 4 - Halokinetic sequences

11. Allochthonous salt

  • Emplacement
  • Styles
  • Vertical feeders and salt-stock canopies
  • Inclined feeders and salt-tongue canopies
  • Deep evacuation recorded by shallow salt
  • Salt nappes
  • Distribution

12. Exercise 5 - GoM Allochthonous salt

13. Salt in thick-skinned extension

14. Exercise 6 - Central North Sea

15. Salt in convergent-margin foldbelts

  • Thin-skinned shortening
  • Thick-skinned inversion

16. Salt on passive margins

  • Processes
  • Proximal extension

17. Exercise 7 - Espirito Sant Basin (proximal)

18. Salt on passive margins (Cont.)

  • Distal contraction
  • Strike-slip and the role of canopies

19. Exercise 8 - Espirito Santo Basin (distal)

20. Petroleum Systems Implications

  • Trap
  • Reservoir distribution and facies
  • Hydrocarbon maturation and migration
  • Seal

21. Interpretation guidelines

Who should attend

Exploration and development geologists and geophysicists working in salt basins around the world.

Prerequisites and linking courses

A basic working knowledge of structural geology (as offered in N016, N090 or N220) and seismic interpretation (as offered in N085 or N040) is required.

Potential attendees should note that salt tectonics courses N071, N149 and N232 have similar classroom content taught by Mark Rowan. The principal differences are: N071 - US-based classroom course with an emphasis on Gulf of Mexico tectonic styles and geophysical aspects of salt systems, less information on salt in thick-skinned tectonic regimes. N149 - EU-based classroom course, equal treatment of salt tectonic styles around the world including in fold and thrust belts. N232 - classroom content as for M149 but includes 4 days in the field in the Basque-Cantabrian fold belt with associated regional geological context and seismic exercise based on local data.

Click on a name to learn more about the instructor

Mark Rowan